A Writer Is Born
I just watched a movie on my favorite streaming service mubi.com. Their way of suggesting one film a day often inspires me to watch movies I missed when they first came out decades ago. Not to speak about all those new movies you might only find on festivals.
Twenty-year-old "Gosford Park" is loaded with stars and directed by Robert Altman - obviously two qualities that made it successuful and let it win tons of award-nominations - but only one Oscar; young, unexperienced British writer Julian Fellows got one for his original screenplay.
Fueled by that success he created and wrote blockbuster "Downton Abbey" ten years later. When he reunited with wonderful Maggie Smith who plays in a way the same character - only twenty years younger, in a part of her life when you still smoke and believe in cucumbers as remedy for puffy eyes.
That is about it.
The camera technique of Altman leaves the actors without any support, most of their dialogues are nearly impossible to understand.
The story is a classic murder-mystery-plot within a group of people where everyone has a good reason to be the murder; the only twist is the part of a producer from Hollywood who is about to produce a murder mystery movie in London - played by the actor Bob Balaban, who is also the producer of "Gosford Park".
And: I loooooved that all the beautiful necklaces, tiaras, bracelets the actresses are wearing are real. Funny enough, it works: They move and behave differently, underlining the gap between those upstairs and downstairs worlds in the manor.
We are so used to a faster and more sophisticated story telling, dialogues written and performed sharply and a plot that has some suspense. Nothing of that here.
Only the way everbody smokes in this movie, upstairs and downstairs, as people used to do back then, makes this film in a way more realistic. Plus the totally mean way those "myladys" and "mylords" treat their servants - also not happening in today´s period TV shows or movies if only for the reason to not be rated.
Something Robert Altman loved for his movies: To never be considered a harmless family movie.